Saturday, 27 June 2020
Summer has begun in Portugal. Wolfgang, who has lived in his traditional house on the Costa Vicentina for 36 years, tells us that when he came here he had a plan. He came to live in Vila do Bispo in 1984, and his house was a ruin. He carefully renovated it, planted trees on the land and made a vegetable garden. That was a long time ago, but today he’s back where he started: the house is a ruin once again. Ashes and the smell of burning all around. Last Friday, his house burned down; only the walls are left. That’s what fires are like in Portugal. This time it was 50 people who lost almost everything they owned. A detailed assessment of the damage has yet to be made. This was heaven, Wolfgang tells us during the emergency meeting for victims at Pizza Pazza in Pedralva, on the Wednesday after the fire. Nobody was expecting a forest worker to start such a terrible fire due to his strimmer overheating. How is it possible? The sad reality is that the fire devastated 2,295 hectares of the Costa Vicentina Natural Park, according to data from the Copernicus satellite belonging to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).
It is here that the stark effects of man-made climate change are being felt. Air temperatures above 37 degrees Celsius at the beginning of summer, winds over 72 kms per hour and a relative humidity of below 30 percent made the fire advance so quickly that escape was the only option for the inhabitants. Jonathan and Violeta tell us that they had not been expecting fires like the ones in Monchique on their land. They are two of the 50 victims who have founded the association “Friends of Pedralva” in order to defend their interests. Stories about climate change must be made public. Paula Young lives on the Vegan Hills estate, where a group of people bought 103 hectares of land to implement an ecological agriculture project and live as a self-sufficient community. In a conversation with ECO123, she emphasises that there are only living conditions where there is water. They were starting their project to create a paradise of over a million square metres. On its website https://vegoa.org we can read, that “we imagine a land abundant with food, flowers and trees …” – Paradise Lost?
At the first meeting after the fire, experiences were shared, the damage was examined and solutions were sought to organise the work of reconstruction. What conclusions can be drawn from this catastrophe and what is to be done with the partly toxic debris? Where can what’s left of the burned plastics be taken? It’s at moments like this that many of us begin to understand that our future way of life has to be different from the one we have had up till now. But what kind of lifestyle should we adopt? During the meeting, it became evident that life in the countryside, in the midst of nature and away from the city, has to adapt to climate change and the possibilities that nature grants us, regardless of whether we live in isolation or in a self-sufficient community. Houses must be fire-resistant. Winter rainwater must be stored for when it’s needed in the summer. And everyone has to draw up their own fire prevention procedures that will include the help and support of the firefighters and the local authorities. So, do we already have a plan?
Donation for reforestation, making water reserves, lakes digging and buying tools for these purposes:
Associação de Pedralva e Amigos
PT50 0045 7150 4032 7124 2876 4